Hard fought victory for Alegre

As the J-Class ends up decided in the protest room at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup

Saturday September 6th 2014, Author: James Boyd, Location: Italy

Costa Smeralda delivered the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup the perfect finale to great week of racing, with 17-22 knots of westerly breezes, flat water and yet more sunshine. The Mini Maxi, Wally and J-Class boats competed in two windward-leewards, while the rest were sent on a 30 mile coastal course through 'Bomb Alley', around La Maddalena and back to Porto Cervo via the strait of Capo Ferro.

Andres Soriano’s Alegre claimed a first Mini Maxi Rolex World Championship following a final day head to head with Roberto Tomasini Grinover’s resilient Robertissima III. In the Wally Class, Magic Carpet 3 sealed the title after a week of numerous twists and turns; Lionheart is the new J-Class champion; among the Supermaxis Firefly confirmed her domination and Lupa of London claimed Maxi racing/cruising. At the final prizegiving, class winners received a Rolex timepiece and Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup trophy.

See our video of kite drops at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup

Mini Maxi Rolex World Championship

Tension on the docks was palpable this morning. Crews desperately sought to maintain a sense of composure ahead of an intense day’s racing; tactical plans were clarified, sail choices defined. In the Mini Maxi Rolex World Championship, Alegre had twice led into the final day (in 2010, 2013) and on both occasions had 'choked', losing out to Niklas Zennström’s Rán 2. This year Zennström and his new Rán 5 were out of the running, beginning the final day in third place, ten points behind the leader. Alegre would still have to defeat Zennström’s all-conquering boat – the former Rán 2 is now Roberto Tomasini Grinover’s Robertissima III. Three points separated the two teams. Two windward/leeward races remained. All to play for.

"We can’t let them [Robertissima] get away. We need to be cautious and keep it close,” confirmed Alegre’s boat captain Olly Cameron pre-race. On Robertissima, the atmosphere was disteso: “We are lucky to have this opportunity and we should be proud of what we have achieved until now,” said tactician Vasco Vascotto. “We just need to focus on sailing well. We said to the crew this morning treat it like it's a Saturday race with your local club, pretend there’s not something important at stake. If we give our all it’s enough.”

In gusty day with winds typically 18-20 knots, it was Niklas Zennström's Rán 5 crew that finally came good after a difficult week to claim bullets in both races, but was unable to improve on third place overall, finishing 0.5 points behind Robertissima. However for Andres Soriano's crew on Alegre scoring third and fourth places was enough to fend off Robertissima and process seal the coveted Mini Maxi Rolex World title.

“It’s a great achievement for the team to be World Champion,” said Soriano. “I’m relieved, it’s something we strove for, we’ve been (in this position) twice already and we finally were able to get over the last hurdle. We sailed our own race; loose, relaxed, confident like we have all week. This year the level of the competition has been raised, more than any of us could have imagined.”

J Class

Lionheart emerged from a spectacular pair of closely fought windward-leeward races to win the J Class title after race winner Rainbow was disqualified from the final race as a result of a port-starboard protest.

Lionheart’s regatta victory is her third in a row, unbeaten in Menorca, Palma and now Sardinia, where she counted two first places, three second places and a fourth. 
Ranger finished in second place for the second time, only one point behind Lionheart with Rainbow’s DSQ dropping them from first to third overall.

As if to rise up and match the sparkling conditions, the four boat J-Class, cranked up the tension and unfolded their own dramatic conclusion to the seven race event which saw all of the crews win at least one race. Going into the final race three teams – Lionheart, Ranger and Rainbow – were all locked on the same 10pts tally after six races.

Lionheart with Bouwe Bekking calling tactics looked to be slowly locking down their third regatta win in a row this season, until their headsail split on the second beat of the first race. A small tear in the middle of the sail soon spread to the leech and by the final turn they had dropped behind Rainbow to fourth. 
And not to be overshadowed in the brisk wind conditions which are much more to their liking, Velsheda, after a string of 3s and 4s, were no mere bystanders today, winning the first race from a crisp start, making smart choices which were backed up by smooth boat handling. Velsheda, which won overall here last year fought to the line in the second race too, finishing only one second behind the red shirted crew on Rainbow. 

From a pressure cooker final start it was Rainbow which came off the line with height and pace, sailing with the smaller headsail as did Lionheart and Velsheda. She was able to rise up to Ranger and lead Velsheda around the first turn by just eight seconds. After a less than perfect first few minutes after the start, Lionheart squeezed around the windward mark just ahead of Ranger. 
With the pendulum having swung back in favour of Rainbow, leading Velsheda narrowly into the leeward gate, the spinnaker drop on Rainbow started messy and got worse by the second, requiring them to carry out a 'chase boat drop', jettisoning the kite into the water, running all the sheets and halyard. 

The incident ended up in the Protest Room and saw Rainbow, winners on the water, disqualified.

“It is a bit of a surprise way to win the regatta," said Bekking. "It is not the nicest way, but that is how yacht racing goes some times. I think our guys did a really nice job and things were going in the right direction when we ripped the genoa in the first race. That cost us. I am not saying we would have won the race but we were going in the right direction.

“The second race we were not close enough to them at the start and had to go right which was not so good. We had to tack away when Rainbow dropped their kite in the water which did not help us.

“For sure we struggled in the lumpy seas, the results were okay, but in the flatter water we were going better. But three regatta wins from three is okay, isn’t it? It is pretty nice.”

Francesco de Angelis, tactician on Rainbow added: “Two boats have a different perspective on an incident and the jury decides. If we had finished second in that race – behind Velsheda – we would have won the regatta and so there was no need for us to infringe Velsheda and that is not good. I think we sailed well enough to win, but we did have few problems on board as you will have seen, but it is only our second regatta together. This was our first day of windward-leewards in bigger breezes, it is all a learning curve for the team. It would have been nice to have finished winning the regatta.”

The rest

In the Wally class, there was no obvious favourite going into today’s racing. The three leading crews were separated by just one point, all had winning Porto Cervo pedigree, all had led at some point during the week. Frenchman Jean-Charles Decaux’s defending champion J One began the day tied on points with Claus-Peter Offen’s four-time winner Y3K. Stalking just one point behind was Sir Lindsay Owen-Jones, five-time winner at the event, and his WallyCento Magic Carpet 3.

A third bullet of the week enabled Magic Carpet 3 to take the first windward/leeward race by a large margin while Y3K stumbled early, suffering from a poor start and J One could not match Magic Carpet’s mastery of the conditions and had to settle for third. In the second race Magic Carpet 3 held a huge lead but a problem flying their gennaker nearly cost them the race, however a smart recovery from her crew enabled them to come back to win the race. Meanwhile J One had to retire; equipment issues led to Y3K failing to finish. On a day that proved to be about survival of the fittest, a third place was enough for Owen-Jones to claim a first success with his new 100 footer.

“It ended up being very close but it was a close week.” commented Sir Lindsay Owen-Jones. “J-One is a great boat and know that because I used to own her and Jean-Charles (Decaux) and his team sail her very well. Claus-Peter (Offen) with Y3K has always been a tremendous competitor. We have been next to Y3K on the dock and they applauded us in today and we would do have done the same, that is the Wally spirit. We enjoy each other's company but after all it is a competition and this is the regatta we all want to win.”

A fourth bullet over five races held was the icing on the cake today for the 35-metre Supermaxi Firefly which took the top spot in the division ahead of Swiss boat Inoui and Vittorio Moretti's 36m Viriella.
Sir Irvine Laidlaw's Highland Fling presented a perfect scorecard with five consecutive victories in the Maxi division. Second place overall went to the Swan 90 Odin while Bristolian took third place.

America's Cup sailor, Mike Toppa was in the afterguard. “Just superb conditions today, exactly what Highland Fling was built for. Irvine Laidlaw was all smiles helming today, especially reaching across the top La Maddelena, 'Fling was surfing along at over 20 knots. When it blows like this, there is no place in the world that can match it.”

IMA Secretary General, Andrew McIrvine was a guest aboard Highland Fling today. He commented: “A fantastic experience of power and balance. Off the breeze, the speed and acceleration was tremendous but the boat was so well balanced. The crew are all top professionals and their trimming and boat handling skills are second to none. Congratulations to all of the winners. In each class, there can only be one winner but the conduct on the race course and the gentlemanly behaviour between the competition should be roundly applauded.”

There was no change in today's overall results for the Mini Maxi Racing Cruising division where Lupa of London takes first place ahead of Russia's Bronenosec and French yacht Arobas.

At the prizegiving, Princess Zahra Aga Khan, as President of the Board, represented the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda together with the Commodore, Riccardo Bonadeo.Gian Riccardo Marini, General Director of Rolex SA presented a Rolex timepiece to five class winners.

Top three results

Mini Maxi Rolex World Championship

1. ALEGRE (GBR), Alegre Yachting Ltd., 1.5-1-3-4-(5)-1.5-3-4; 18
2. ROBERTISSIMA III (CAY), Roberto Tomasini Grinover, 6-2-1-5-2-3-(5)-3; 22
3. RÁN 5 (GBR), Niklas Zennström 4.5-3-2-2-(7)-9-1-1; 22.5

Mini Maxi R/C
1. LUPA OF LONDON (GBR), Jeremy Pilkington, 1-1-2-1-(7); 5
2. BRONENOSEC (RUS), Alpenberg S.A., (4)-2-1-2-3; 8
3. AROBAS (FRA), Gerard Logel, 2-4-3-3-(5); 12

Maxi Racing
1. HIGHLAND FLING XI (MON), Irvine Laidlaw, 1-1-1-1-1; 4
2. ODIN (CAY), Tom Siebel, 2-2-2-2-(2); 8
3. BRISTOLIAN (GBR), Bristolian Marine Ltd., 4-(4)-3-3-3; 13

1. LIONHEART (GBR), Stichting Lionheart Syndicate, 4-1-2-2-1-(4)-2; 12
2. RANGER (CAY), R.S.V. Ltd., 1-2-(4)-3-2-2-3; 13
3. RAINBOW (NED), SPF JH2, 2-3-1-1-4-3-(5); 14


1. FIREFLY (NED), Eric Bijlsma, 1-1-(2)-1-1 ; 4
2. INOUI (SUI), Marco Vögele, 2-2-1-2-(2); 7
3. VIRIELLA (ITA), Vittorio Moretti, 3-3-3-3-(3); 12

1. MAGIC CARPET 3 (GBR), Sir Lindsey Owen-Jones, 2-1-5-1-(5)-1-3; 13
2. J ONE (GBR), Jean Charles Decaux, 1-3-2-2-3-3-(10); 14
3. Y3K (GER), Claus Peter Offen, 3-2-1-3-2-4-(10); 15



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